28 October 2009

Pad Thai for dinner

I had a friend over for dinner today and since I did not have that much time between the time I am back from work and dinner time I was trying to figure out that would be fast to make but also interesting for me to try. I was getting bored of making the same things when I have friends over. I know they say not to try something new when having guest over, but I get bored with the same go-to recipes.

So today I decided to try my hand at making pad thai. I went to Chez Pim's website where there is a step by step pad thai tutorial. I found this very helpful, in particular, the instructions in making the sweet-sour-salty-spicy sauce which gives pad thai its distinctive taste. The trick is balancing the different flavors and I like Chez Pim's description of how to know when the sauce is just right. She writes, "I like my sauce to lead with a salty flavor, follow by a mild sourness, then just a gentle sweetness and a soft caress from the chilli at the back of my throat at the very end." I kept this in mind as I was tasting the sauce and I thought my pad thai turned out delicious. My guest concurred! We both had second helpings (I am still feeling so stuffed from dinner). Mmmm.

The nice thing about making pad thai is that you just need to prep the veggies and prawns before your guest arrives, and you can fry it up just minutes before it is time to eat. I had all the ingredients laid out pretty (my guest called it "Food Network ready prep"), but alas I forgot to take pictures! Darn! Forgot to take picture of the wok action and the finished product too. When I finally remembered the camera, we had finished the meal and I was putting away leftovers. Oooh, the leftovers! So here is what is left folks. A picture of my lunch for tomorrow.

And here is the link to Chez Pim's Pad Thai for Beginners guide:

note: In my version, at the recommendation of my friend, IJ, who makes excellent Thai food, I added minced shallots with the garlic. I omitted the dried prawns and pickled turnip and used large shrimps in mine. I did not have Thai Chili powder handy, my friend suggested substituting this with dried chillies grounded up into a fine-coarse texture(that is coarser than powder form, but finer than chilli flakes you get with pizza). That worked really well. (Regular chilli/ cayenne powder is too fine, a coarser texture works better somehow). And oh, the ground peanuts is a must!

I am looking forward to lunch t'row!

26 October 2009

What's for lunch?

Wholewheat bread + Mix greens + Sardines + Avocado + Sea salt + Freshly-cracked black pepper = Quick, yummy, healthy, lunch. Enjoy!

21 October 2009

Apple Pie

I made apple pie when I was home in KL during the eid holidays. Not exactly your traditional Eidilfitri dessert but it proved to be popular and was gone within a day. And it was just the family. I used Mark Bittman's pastry recipe (from online and from Jo's recommendation) and it was good, but I have to say the the recipe from the America's Test Kitchen which uses scary amount of butter and shortening (yes, shortening) has a flakier and fluffier texture. I will write out the recipe below.

The one from Mark Bittman can be found online (link below). As I said, also good, and and I will probably use it again as I like that it uses all butter and a reasonable amount. I suspect it was too hot of a day that day I made this to get the best result from this recipe, I look forward to trying it out again. http://www.howtocookeverything.tv/recipe.php%3Fnid=191.html

I did not use a specific recipe for the filing. I used about 5 small mix of apples, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, dash of cinnamon and a little lemon juice. I also added 1 tbspn of flour, should have added another tablespoon as the filling was a little runny. But it was tasty all the same.

Pie Crust (from The Best American Classics by America's Test Kitchen)
For one double-crust 9 inch pie

2.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
8 tbspn all-vegetable shortening, chilled
12 tbspn unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
6-8 tbspn ice water

methods (note: not verbatim from book, too lazy to type everything out)
1. pulse flour, salt, sugar in food processor. add shortening, pulse 10 seconds
2. scatter butter and cut into flour until resembles coarse crumb, butter bits no larger than small peas, about 10-1 second pulses.
3. turn mixture into bowl, sprinkle water, from dough.
4. divide into two balls, flatten into a 4-inch wide disk
5. wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour before rolling

Baking instructions: Preheat oven at 500 F, place filled pie on baking sheet and lower temperature to 425F. Bake until top is golden brown about 25 minutes, rotate pie and reduce temp to 375F, continue baking until deeply golden brown, 25-30 minutes. ( I would keep an eye out so that it doesnt get too burned, you may need to cover the edges with foil or pie edge cover along the way).

15 October 2009

Vegetable dumplings and stir-fried bean sprouts

I heart bean sprouts. I love this tasty, crunchy and extremely versatile vegetable. They are also so cheap and easy to cook, no messing with chopping and peeling. Just throw the content of the bag into a colander and rinse. Here I stir-fried bean sprouts with garlic and chives, seasoned with a dash of light soy sauce and sesame seed oil.

The vegetarian dumplings above is partially home-made. I bought the dumpling skins (usually near the tofu section in the supermarket fridge) and made a quick filling of what I had in my fridge that day which was cauliflower and dried shitake mushrooms. Cauliflower and the pre-soaked mushrooms were finally chopped and sauteed with olive oil and garlic. I added an egg to bind the filling.

Dumplings can be made in advance and kept frozen until ready to use. You can either steam, boil or pan fry the dumplings. Great to have in hand for a quick meal. Hmm, I think I will make more this weekend to keep for the week.